Why Report Cards Are Like Mexican Traffic Lights

It is report card time here in North America.  Students are wondering about the grades they will get and maybe dreading what you will say to them when you see them.  But before you take your chid’s report card too seriously there is something you should know.

There are many different kinds of report cards. Many use letter grades, others use comments, some use both. Although there are many differences between them the share one enormous similarity.

All report cards are like Mexican traffic lights!

If you are Mexican please forgive me for what I am  about to write – even though it was  Mexican friend who told me this.   Mexican traffic lights are ‘advisory’.  Drivers take them as an indication that they should stop or to slow down.  If you have ever driven in Mexico City you will know what I am talking about.   The traffic moves quickly and you can never be sure that cars will stop for red lights.

So how are report cards like Mexican Traffic lights?

All report cards are advisory.  They are not set in stone.  The grades you see are merely advice about how well your child is doing in a subject.

There is no consistency between the grades your child is given.  One teacher might give a child an A where another teacher would give a B or even a C.  That is why when your child changes teachers his or her grades may suddenly go up or go down. Not because your child has worked harder or not done the work but because what one teacher considers A work another teacher considers it a B.

So how do teachers decide what grade a child will get?  That depends on the teacher.  Some teachers go by test results, some go by homework scores, others assess project work.  But few teachers only use the marks a student gets during the year.  Most teachers mix in thoughts about the student’s attitude to learning, the amount of effort he or she has put into their work, the progress they have made since the last report card.

Is this fair? No, but it is the way it is.  That is why you MUST remember that report cards are advisory only.

When you look at your child’s report card think about Mexican traffic lights!


Patricia Porter

Dr. Patricia Porter is a Learning Skill Assessment Specialist & Speaker. Discover your Child's Learning Needs to Unlock their Full Potential.